Part of the first wave of punk bands in the U.K., the Adicts hit their stride in the 1980s and never looked back. Still active and still sporting garb from the rack of Clockwork Orange, the Adicts played in New York last year, where PKM’s Amy Haben met them and stayed in touch. She caught up with Adicts’ singer Keith Warren, aka “Monkey,” in a recent phone interview.
“Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him? – Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange)
Possibly one of the most offensive movies of all time, the 1971 screen adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ 1962 dystopian novel, A Clockwork Orange was banned from British movie theaters upon release. What I didn’t realize until recently, was that director Stanley Kubrick made the call to ban it in the U.K. due to copycat crimes committed in the States after the 1971 release of the film.
Alex (brilliantly portrayed by Malcolm McDowell) is the notorious narrator and main character of the futuristic and heavily stylized film. Alex encourages his droogs to commit acts of ‘ultra violence’ on the weakest of people: women and homeless drunks. They power up on milk mixed with chemicals from the Korova Milkbar (we used to have one in NYC) that sharpen their focus for torture. Among his fellow droogs, Alex seems to be the only intelligent one. With his love of Beethoven and deep thoughts, he leads his pack of hyenas into battle. Eventually, Alex is forced into submission with Pavlovian techniques by doctors who cure him of his obsession with sex and violence. Eventually, these doctors are forced to change him back to his natural state of debauchery, as their experiment was deemed unlawful.
Punk rock group, the Adicts, must have loved this movie, because somewhere along the way, they adopted the droog aesthetic—fitted, all-white outfits with black boots, suspenders, and black bowler hats. Monkey, their enchanting leader, wears stylized make up which reminds me of a mix between a joker, an Egyptian and a goth’s face paint. His real name is Keith Warren, but he was given the nickname Monkey by friends who thought he resembled one, most likely from his adorable ears. His lyrics are usually about fun, love, lust, and freedom. “Viva La Revolution,” one of their hits from 1981, describes an anarchic uprising by the working class, taking back their power and smashing the system to which they are confined. It’s still a crowd favorite today.
Last year, my friend Louis and I saw the Adicts at the Gramercy Theatre in NYC. I had last seen the band in 2005, and I have to say, the show was much more exciting this time around. Monkey puts in a lot of effort with props on stage and his outfits are works of art. The whole band is incredibly energized during the show and they don’t look their ages. It’s so refreshing, as I’ve witnessed some other ‘70s-era punk bands just go through the motions during their sets. A high-energy band gets a high-energy crowd and vice versa.
Louis and I went backstage after the gig, where I met an affable Monkey. He was in the middle of removing his make-up and changing out of his sweaty clothes. The current teetotaler was making himself a hot drink when an incredibly intoxicated girl shoved everything on the snack table across the room, including the kettle. She was dragged away by friends and security soon after. I handed Monkey the cup of tea I had made for myself seconds before the incident. He deserved it after his graciously long set.
As Louis and I stood there, the band entertained their guests. I look over and Monkey is fully nude holding a towel over his junk while talking to a beautiful blonde girl. He wasn’t being crude, just mid-change in a tight area. I was compelled to snap a photo of the two but decided it would be rude without permission. After I got to know him better, I realized that he wouldn’t have minded at all. He’s not the least bit shy. There is even a photo of Monkey fully nude and smiling with his clothed band on his Instagram.
I have loved the Adicts since I was 14 years old. I had a patch of Monkey’s face on the front of my blue hoodie back when proudly announcing what bands you backed was of utmost importance. I first saw them perform on VHS in the 80’s British punk documentary, UK/DK. They really stuck out to me as originals in a sea of spiked hair and pyramid belts. I was lucky enough to interview Monkey over the phone from his home in Los Angeles during this pandemic lockdown.
PKM: Hello, it’s Amy! What are you doing?
Monkey: Nothing. Same thing I’ve been doing all week.
PKM: You should have your own show. You’re so entertaining on Instagram. I hope you’re doing okay over there. What part of L.A. are you in?
Monkey: I’m actually in Ventura County. I’m about an hour north from downtown L.A. Not much goes on around here.
PKM: Do you have company during this crazy time?
Monkey: No. I live alone.
PKM: I heard you don’t drink. Are you sober or do you take drugs?
Monkey: I don’t drink, but I’ll take drugs sometimes.
PKM: I heard you do yoga. Is that true?
Monkey: Yeah, I do yoga. Although, not lately. There is a studio down the street. Hot yoga.
The Adicts – Joker in the Pack
PKM: How long have you lived in L.A.?
Monkey: I’ve lived in a lot of different places, but I’ve been in California for 26 years. I came from my hometown of Ipswich, England. I’ve lived in San Francisco, and around the L.A. area.
PKM: I know your band members live all over, including one in England. It’s crazy how bands get together for part of the year to tour, and at the end go off their separate ways.
Monkey: We want to get as far away from each other as possible.
PKM: Haha. Where did you originally get your make-up? From a girlfriend? A Halloween shop?
Monkey: We actually had a little magic shop in town. I went in and asked them, “What can I put on my face to make it look white.” I used Halloween makeup and professional clown make-up. It wasn’t until about 1981 that I started to wear it.
PKM: Where did you get the name Monkey?
Monkey: According to my friends, when I was a kid, I looked like a monkey.
PKM: Oh, haha. I noticed that you guys play a cover of the song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” How did the idea to record that come about?
Monkey: It’s a much-used song at soccer stadiums in England. In particular Liverpool, people sing it at some point during the game.
PKM: I did hear that.
Monkey: It’s originally a Rodgers and Hammerstein tune from the musical, Carousel. Then, it became a hit with Gerry and the Pacemakers and eventually became a generic football anthem. It’s more than that, though, it’s about friendship and jubilee.
PKM: It’s funny, in England, it’s totally acceptable to be into sports and rock music. While in the U.S, a lot of musicians don’t pay attention to sports because it’s seen as a jock’s world.
Monkey: We have two teams in L.A. One is the Galaxy, and I know a lot of Latino guys who have punk rock parties before the games. So there is that crossover.
PKM: Has anyone ever told you that you have a natural joker smile, even without the make-up? It’s like Jack Nicholson’s mouth with turned up ends.
Monkey: Nobody has compared me to Jack Nicholson. Even the idea for that manic grin, comes from this old silent film, The Man Who Laughs, from the 20’s.
PKM: I love silent films. Watching people act set just to music, is an entirely different experience.
Monkey: Yeah. In the film, this guy gets his face stuck with this manic grin on it and he can’t change it.
PKM: Tell me about some crazy stories on tour.
Monkey: We’ve gotten arrested here and there. Travel nightmares. Not getting paid. The same rock ‘n’ roll stories everyone has.
PKM: How are you able to still live in the U.S?
Monkey: I’m divorced now, but I had married a citizen. I have a green card. It’s very difficult for an artist to work in the U.S. now. We are a U.S.-based band, but we have three foreign artists in the band and we get taxed the fuck out of.
PKM: Who are some of the bands that inspired you to start doing this when you were younger?
Monkey: I listen to all kinds of stuff. Glam rock was the first kind of music that excited me. That British early seventies Glam scene. Bowie, of course, but I loved Sweet, T. Rex, Gary Glitter, and Sweet.
PKM: Louis told me a funny story between your band and a bunch of skinheads at a gig.
Monkey: That popped up on my Instagram recently. Someone had a ticket stub from that show and they remembered it a bit differently than I did.
PKM: What year was it?
Monkey: 1991 or 1992. We played a show with Cock Sparrer in London. It was their crowd. I decided to do a theatrical bit where I was Jesus nailed to a cross. I had really long hair at the time. I covered myself in blood and got naked. That didn’t go over very well with the skinhead crowd. They reacted against us, so I grabbed my cock and said, “How’s that for a skinhead?”
Monkey: That was the end of the show. We were chased off the stage and had to hide out. They wanted to kill us. We were run out of town and told not to come around Cock Sparrer and their gang again. Don’t come back to London. Ipswich was about seventy miles from there and someone came looking for us.
PKM: Did you used to get naked a lot back in the day?
Monkey: No, not really. This was planned. It was basically, part of the act. Maybe, when I used to drink more. I remember in Germany once, I decided to get naked and throw my clothes into the audience, including my boots. One of them came back and hit me on the head so I kept that one.
PKM: Haha! I loved the UK/DK documentary which you guys were in. Did you think that was a good film?
Monkey: Yeah. I thought we were portrayed pretty well.
THE ADICTS – Picture the Scene:
PKM: I heard the movie, A Clockwork Orange, was banned from England when it first came out.
Monkey: Yeah. I was a little too young in 1971 to be aware of it. The first time I saw it was on a bootleg video, several years later. I’ve never met Malcolm McDowell, but I just messaged him on Instagram yesterday. There is a special screening of A Clockwork Orange somewhere soon and he was saying hello to his fans. I just messaged him saying, “Hello, I’ve been stealing your look for years.”
Monkey: He lives kinda close, somewhere in Santa Barbara. He has a son who is a musician who has played locally.
PKM: What have you been up to during the pandemic? Writing songs? A book?
Monkey: I haven’t written a book. I’ve written screenplays, and short stories. People say I should write a book, but I don’t think my story is over as far as final chapter goes. Maybe this is it though. During this lockdown, I’ve gone through cycles. Equated to the five stages of bereavement or something. First it was, I’m trying to make a lot of jokes, and puns. I’m trying to be poignant. Trying to find songs that had meaning. Then, I went crazy and shaved my head. Then last week, I’m bored with everybody’s boredom. I don’t want anymore with life or any help. Since Sunday, I slept most of the time. In California, they are even saying don’t go to the store unless absolutely necessary. Wear a mask. It’s difficult for everybody.
PKM: There is a level of powerlessness that we are all going through.
Monkey: Well, nobody has been through this before. Everyone is reacting differently, and somebody, somewhere is going to freakout pretty badly, I’m sure. I’ve been a little more creative recently. Framing, collecting, making shirts…
PKM: Oh, do you have a screen printer at home to make designs on shirts?
Monkey: No. I have paint and sponges. Haha.
PKM: Haha. It’s a crazy time that we are going through. I went outside on the streets of NYC for a minute and there were ominous, dark blue clouds and no cars anywhere. It’s scary, but also a bit exciting to see what will happen in the future.
The Adicts – live @ Hellfest Festival 2019 (Full Show HiRes) – ARTE Concert